Monday, November 21, 2016

Looking for a new career? Consider Mechatronics

Industries ranging from manufacturing to health care are in great need of workers with automation and systems technology skills. Mechatronics is the engineering behind those systems. A new state of Tennessee Labor Education Alignment Program (LEAP) 2.0 grant provides $811,000 for Volunteer State Community College to build electronic, hydraulic and pneumatic labs, and to train instructors in Siemens certification for mechatronics. Vol State is partnering with Workforce Essentials in the project called Mechatronics-2-Jobs.

“Mechatronics directly links the skilled workforce required to maintain and program equipment to the manufacturing sector, which is exploding throughout the region,” said John Watz, vice president for Strategic Planning and Development at Workforce Essentials. “Workforce Essentials and the North Tennessee Workforce Board has their whole support behind this program.”

“We have been in discussions with business and industry for more than a year about the need for this program and how to get it started at Vol State.  We are so pleased that we received the grant, which will allow us to move quickly to establish a Mechatronics program at Vol State in Gallatin. “Persons with training and skills in this area are in high demand,” said Vol State president, Jerry Faulkner. “Graduates will easily find good paying positions in this high skill area. At Vol State we are dedicated to meeting the educational and training needs of our service area.” 

Vol State will launch an associate of applied science (AAS) mechatronics degree program on the Gallatin campus in the fall of 2017. It will provide the training and certification education students need for entry level jobs as mechanical engineering technicians, electrical engineering technicians and industrial engineering technicians, just to name a few. Graduates will have skills in the installation, maintenance and repair and of mechanical controls, fluid power systems, electrical equipment and electronic equipment. Vol State already utilizes labs and classes for mechatronics classes at the Cookeville Higher Education Campus (CHEC). The LEAP grant will add labs to the Gallatin campus and equipment at Highland Crest in Springfield.

The bureau of Labor Statistics says the national median salary for mechanical engineering technicians is $53,910. Job growth is projected at 5 percent in coming years. It is even higher in Tennessee. The grant project partners with several area manufacturers for internships and job entry programs. And once in the workplace, students can continue their education for a bachelor of science degree through a partnership with Austin Peay State University. It’s designed specifically for working students.

The LEAP program supports Governor Haslam’s Drive to 55 campaign. It seeks to increase the percentage of Tennesseans with a postsecondary degree or credential to 55 percent by 2025. The LEAP grants go to community and academic partnerships that align workforce needs with higher education. For more information about Mechatronics at Vol State visit www.volstate.edu/mechatronics

Pictured: The Mechatronics Lab at the Cookeville Higher Education Campus provides hands-on robotics and automation equipment training for Vol State classes there.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

What Will You Be Doing In Two Years?



True story: many years back I saw a news story about a woman in her sixties graduating from a college. My first thought? “You can do that??” Up until then I had thought of college as a young person’s venue only.

At that time I thought that I couldn’t afford to go back to school. It was in my “someday” list, along with the nice house and vacations in the Caribbean. Of course, it’s a little more difficult to get the nice house and vacations in the Caribbean without a college degree. So I waited for something to change, though I didn’t know what that would be.

What changed was something that is too common, especially among women. I got a divorce. Suddenly I was a single mom with almost no income and no degree. It was an event I wasn’t prepared for at all, and the first couple of years consisted of trying desperately not to find ourselves living in a box somewhere. Have you seen the cost of housing lately? In the short time between my being single and my becoming a single mom, prices in Nashville have skyrocketed. I looked up my former apartment to find that the rent had increased by 200%.

My point is that I was not prepared. We try to prepare for disasters by getting insurance and learning basic safety. We learn where the fire extinguisher is and to stop, drop, and roll. There’s no insurance for the event of divorce, and suddenly the privilege of stay-at-home-mom status becomes a severe liability.

An old proverb says “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now.” I realized that my whole life was going to consist of trying to keep us off the streets unless I took the plunge and got a degree.

Like me, a lot of adults wait until they’re desperate. You don’t have to. In a couple of years you could be walking across the stage to get your degree, excitingly preparing to transfer to a four-year university or anticipating new opportunities that could come with an associate’s degree. Plant your tree now.



Gaynell Buffinet Payne

Read more:
Take Classes this Coming Spring Semester
10 Reasons You Should Consider Community College Today!


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